Kim Lajoie's blog

Using chorus to increase stereo width

by Kim Lajoie on November 14, 2011

Just a quick tip today – use chorus to make a sound extremely wide without changing the character of the sound. A simple digital chorus is often ideal for this – the one that came bundled with your DAW or a basic freeware plugin should be fine.

Use these settings as a starting point: 100% wet, 0% feedback, LFO rate below 1Hz, Depth 100%, Delay 0ms. You might also need to set the relative phase of each LFO to 180 degrees – this will make sure the left and right LFOs are cycling out of phase with each other. To reduce the pitch modulation, reduce the LFO speed.

Using a chorus like this is a little like using a Haas delay (delaying one side by less than 50ms) to increase stereo width. It’s better, however, because the chorus’s relative delay is constantly changing (whereas a simple delay is fixed). This means the illusion of direction (the Haas effect, caused by short delays) is changing, rather than static. This is more pleasant and less distracting to listen to.

I do this most often with pads and background synths when I want them to be ultra-wide – especially in situations where the source sound is mono. I’ll even use it when a stereo sound is already very wide but the left and right sides are too different for my taste, I’ll collapse the sound to mono and the re-stereoise it using a basic 100% wet chorus.

-Kim.

10 thoughts on “Using chorus to increase stereo width

  1. nofish says:

    Thanks for this tip.
    I tried to replicate it but somehow I can’t find a chorus which has these parameters.
    Is feedback the same as depth (on the Kjaerhus classic chorus eg) ?
    And I couldn’t find one where I can adjust the phase to 180 degress (or didn’t notice)
    Any recommendation ?

    Thank you.

  2. Kim Lajoie says:

    @nofish
    The Kjaerhus classic chorus is a good example. The stereo mode is enabled with the ‘spread’ button. Depth and Mix should be set to maximum, and range and rate set to taste (but keep it pretty subtle).

    -Kim.

  3. nofish says:

    Cool. Thanks Kim.

  4. Z.S. says:

    Good tip! It reminded me of a trick some guitar players used in the 80’s when playing live in a power trio formula (dr, bg, & gtr). They used to permanently have chorus on with the minimal settings even for the rhythm stuff, preferably split into stereo. Instant “bigness”!

  5. Kim Lajoie says:

    @Z.S.
    Chorus was used a lot in the 80s! Some uses were more tasteful than others… πŸ˜‰

    -Kim.

  6. Z.S. says:

    @Kim Lajoie
    So true! I can’t imagine overdriven rhythm guitar with chorus anymore nowadays.

  7. Pingback: Get more out of your phaser | Kim Lajoie's blog

  8. Dean says:

    Hi Kim!
    I always read your tips, they’re smart, concrete and so useful.
    I work with electronic musix and I think that the best thing about chorus is that of course it can be great to get stereo width and also depth for the background sounds.
    I always try to experiment with different combinations of fx in my buses to get that feeling of deep sounds supporting the main melody.
    Is there any other way to widen those background sounds?

    Dean πŸ™‚

  9. Kim Lajoie says:

    Hi Dean,

    The usual alternatives to chorus can work just as well, depending on the sound and context: Phasers, micro shifters, short delays, reverb etc.

    Another approach that can often work well is to record (or program+sequence) two versions of the same part, but make them slightly different and pan them left and right. This is common with rhythm guitars, but if you’re using synths you can experiment with using different oscillator waveforms, different filter variants, different subtle modulations, etc. The possibilities are limitless.

    -Kim.

  10. Dean says:

    I knew a little of using two recordings of the same part for rhythm guitars!
    I’ll try what you suggested with synths for sure πŸ™‚

    Thanks Kim

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